30 June 2010

What I'm Reading

  • Want to be a better writer?  Avoid "all the cliches fit to print."
  • Amber Naslund urges us to remember to have a purpose while educating our audiences about social media.
  • Want to know what's going on in technology in our community OUTSIDE social media?  Tagoras recently released the Association Technology Survey
  • Starting a white-label socnet for your members (we are)?  Engage365 has some great advice for making them feel welcome.
  • Lynn Morton takes on the topic of white label socnets, too, checking out the pros and cons.
  • Jamie Notter reminds us of the dangers of selection bias.
  • Mange your social presence in 10 minutes a day or less.
  • Which do people think is the greater threat in social media use - identity theft or overly aggressive marketing?  If you guessed "identity theft," you would be wrong. In other news, people are terrible at estimating risk. 
  • Still working on Mists of Avalon and on Shirky.  The problem I usually have with "business" books is that they seem to be written for idiots. They're usually at about a fifth grade reading level, with very few large print words on each copiously white-spaced page. And the observations come in two types: "Well, that's obvious" and "Oh my God, that's so f-ing obvious the author should be ashamed for trying to make money off of this!" Shirky used "attenuated" within the first 20 pages. LOVE!

29 June 2010

Innovate Now! But How?

We're constantly being urged to innovate, but frankly, in a world of venture capital, nanotechnology, medical advances, and big R&D budgets - none of which nonprofits have access to on a regular basis - that constant drumbeat of "innovate...innovate...innovate" can feel more than a little intimidating - it can even seem impossible.

The thing is, your association is never going to be Apple (hell, Apple might not be Apple after visionary founder Steve Jobs is no longer on the scene).  And that's OK.  You don't have to change the world for everyone to have an impact on someone.

So as a community, if we're not going to discover an abundant, non-carbon-based, renewable energy source or find the cure for AIDS or bring peace to the Middle East or create the next iGottaHaveIt device, what can we do?  Where is our ground for innovation?

It's right under our noses: membership and volunteerism - the two things we, as a community, can lay claim to owning.

And the thing is, we NEED to innovate in both of these areas, because they're key to our operations and they're in the midst of being subjected to some pretty powerful generational forces.

I posted about this earlier this spring, but I think the current association model, particularly as relates to membership and volunteering, is an artifact of its creation by the Boomers.  Membership is often a one-size-fits-all prospect, with lots of "community good" stuff, well, stuffed in there, whether or not the individual member wants it or wants to support it.  That lets us get away with pricing at least some of our offerings below what they actually cost us to produce, artificially inflating demand, which in turn, makes it hard to kill things that should die.

John Graham gave a speech at the Association Foundation Group's national conference a few weeks ago where he indicated that the association model is predicated on only about 25% of our members taking advantage of any given service that's offered to them. His point was that if they all took 100% advantage of their memberships, we'd go out of business.  My response was different - that means that, for any given "benefit" you offer to members, 75% of them don't want it.  And yet they're paying for it.  And we wonder why we have a hard time articulating our value proposition!

To paraphrase the always-provocative Scott Briscoe (and I linked to this post recently in my regular Wednesday What I'm Reading feature):  we're inundating our members with too much irrelevant crap.  No wonder they "don't pay attention!" (how often have you said that?)  They aren't interested in 75% of what we keep insisting on telling them about - no wonder we can't get their attention about the 25% that actually matters to them.

Xers and Millennials - aka, your members of tomorrow - have much higher expectations of paying for what - and only what - we actually want (the article linked relates to Boomers versus Xers as parents of school-age kids, but it's both interesting and relevant for our discussion here).  I quote:
Gen Xers are acutely sensitive to the prices they pay and the value they receive in return.
Prepare for the modular “opt-out” consumer. 
(Oh, and did I mention that the article was written by Neil Howe?)

We need to be thinking seriously, innovating seriously, about how that affects the membership model NOW.  Hell, we needed to start thinking about this yesterday.

Those same dynamics - localism, pragmatism, focus on the bottom line, personal accountability, distrust of authority and institutions - affect volunteering just as strongly (if not more so) than membership. We're not interested in neverending committee meetings that don't actually accomplish anything.  We don't want to have to "pay dues" to get a leadership position - we want responsibility based on what we've accomplished, not on our ability to outlast the other guy.  But don't listen to me - check our Deirdre Reid's New Volunteer Manifesto.  She says it all way better than I could.

Associations, and nonprofits more generally, REQUIRE volunteers to operate.  But if we can't innovate around what we offer and our expectations and put together a model that fits with what GenX and the Millennials are looking for, there will be no one to fill those seats.

So what do you think? What are you doing to address generational change and how it will affect the building blocks of your organization?  Where else can associations innovate?

28 June 2010

Always the Last to Know: Prezi

I am not the master of the visuals.  The first question I always ask when invited to present somewhere is, "Do I have to provide slides?" Prezi just might convince me to get better. 

Bonus link?  Maddie Grant's great Prezi on the magic of three

25 June 2010

Friday Top 5

Thanks to Amber Naslund for announcing buzzword graveyard Friday! My Top 5 candidates are:
  1. Proactive
  2. "At the end of the day..."
  3. Synergy
  4. Learnings
  5. Value-add/ed
Add your favorites in the comments or back at Amber's original post.

24 June 2010

Social Media Monitoring Tools

Great presentation on social media monitoring options from pier314, a German digital media company:

23 June 2010

What I'm Reading

Short (but good) list this week:
  • Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant (did I say "brilliant" enough? Well, maybe one more) brilliant (yes, it's that good) cover article in the June issue of Associations Now by Jamie Notter on creating a culture of truth. 
  • Another great article from the June issue of Associations Now - Marsha Rhea (who led an interesting session for the CAE Celebration last night on futurist thinking) on the power of collaborative learning. What can you do differently at your next event?
  • Awesome recap by Jeff Hurt of what looks like it was a fantastic presentation from PCMA on using social technologies in the 7 stages of event planning.
  • Twitter power user?  Chris Brogan has a great list of tips. I guarantee that at least a few will be new to anyone. 
  • I'm still reading The Mists of Avalon - it's a long book and a fun one, so I'm taking my time - and I just started Here Comes Everybody since I seem to keep missing hearing Shirky live.  Of course, I could cheat and read Matt Baehr's recaps of his read through the book, but...nah.  I'm not the Cliff's Notes (or even Baehr's Notes) type.

22 June 2010

ISO Great Member Service Tips

Want to add a publication credit to your resume?  ASAE's Membership Section Council is updating the classic 199 Member Service Tips book, and we need your help!  Submit your hot tip for exceptional member service or engagement at www.asaecenter.org/sharemytip.

21 June 2010

Always the Last to Know: TR 10 Emerging Technologies

The brainiacs at MIT's Technology Review have come out with their list of top 10 emerging technologies:
  1. Real-time search
  2. Mobile 3-D
  3. Engineered stem cells
  4. Solar fuel
  5. Light-trapping photovoltaics
  6. Social TV
  7. Green concrete
  8. Implantable electronics
  9. Dual-action antibodies
  10. Cloud programming
Follow the link above for more information about all of them.

18 June 2010

Friday Top 5

ASAE's Associations Now has been running a series over the last several months about mentoring.  The focus of the article has primarily been on "external" mentoring (mentor/padawan relationships that aren't supervisory relationships).  But internal mentoring relationships are perhaps even more important.  I've brought along a fair amount of more junior staffers over the years (whether or not they directly worked for me), and I think I have a little insight to share with regards to internal coaching/teaching/mentoring.
  1. Do NOT just do the project. Yes, "you can have it done the way you'd do it, or you can have me do it, but you can't have both."  That's a GOOD thing.
  2. Schedule plenty of extra time. Yes, you could do it in a week and run with the first (or at least lightly edited second) draft. But then your padawan doesn't learn anything.  If it's someone whose neck you can wring, give it 2-3 times as much time as you would doing it yourself.  Someone who's NOT in your direct chain of command? Double that. The worst thing you can do? Yank the project back because of a rapidly approaching deadline. You've then told your padawan (in deed if not in word) that she's incompetent.
  3. Ask questions.  There's a reason the Socratic method has stood the test of time. Spot a problem? Don't just tell your padawan - help her find it.  Then don't just supply the solution - once again, help her find a solution on her own.
  4. Listen. And pay attention. You don't know everything.  No really, trust me, you don't. New eyes have new insights and new ideas. Just because you didn't think of it doesn't mean you shouldn't try it.  Even better? Let your padawan run with the idea (but make sure to support her so she has the highest possible chance of success and give her political cover if it doesn't work).
  5. Praise in public - correct in private. Something goes well? Sing her praises from the rooftops.  Something goes not so well?  See above re: political cover.  Don't leave her hanging.
What have you learned in your years of being a mentor? Being mentored? Share it in the comments.

17 June 2010

2010 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report

Marketing General (more precisely Tony Rossell) has just released their second annual Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report.  Tony recaps the top 10 findings in a great post at the Membership Marketing blog.

A few things in particular jumped out at me:

Association membership is in trouble - 48% of respondents have seen a decline in overall membership in the past year, and it's down across the board - first year renewals, acquisition, and long-term retention - and the trades are in worse shape than the professional societies.

The reasons people could choose  for not renewing basically all relate to money - because, let's face it, even though "lack of value" was the #1 reason given, what that really translates to is:  what I got wasn't worth what I paid for it.

On social media, John Graham's recent assertion to the contrary, 92% of the associations that responded have some presence on social media.  Interestingly, although Facebook tops the list, when asked which social media technologies are most effective, the majority picked old skool listervs and a plurality picked white-label socnets. 

Direct mail still ranks at the top of recruitment efforts, with word of mouth, although personal sales calls have moved into a close third.  The larger the organization (number of members), the higher the reliance on direct mail.  But I suspect that's caused by the fact that large numbers of members usually translates to a low dues amount personal membership, which means it's more like a small donor fundraising relationship, where direct mail is still king. 

The percentage of associations who report that members are joining for access to information is WAY down, which again, given the ubiquity of free information on most topics on the web, is not that surprising.  It does point up the need Jeff De Cagna's been promoting recently for associations to curate the flow of information for our members, though.  Number one?  Networking.

Lots of other good information to comb through - go download a free copy for yourself.

16 June 2010

What I'm Reading

  • Advice to the graduates by Joe Romaniecki on Acronym.  Add yours in the comments.
  • Peek inside the mind of a sponsor and learn how to make your packages more appealing and useful to your corporate partners.
  • The June issue of Membership Developments, which features some really good articles: Erik Schonher and Vinay Kumar on membership health checks, Andy Steggles on lifetime value of a member, and Marilyn Mages, CAE, (ICMAD) and Dori Kelner on starting a membership marketing program from scratch. 
  • Keeping Kids Safe Online, a guest post to SmartBlogs by my good friend (and the president of Bean Creative), the fabulous Layla Masri.
  • 6 emerging technologies that will rock your meetings world.
  • The tweets from the first (of three) Buzz 2010 breakfasts, this one with Charlene Li on Open Leadership. See y'all on July 20 for 2 of 3.
  • Speaking of tweets, the Twitter coverage of NACHRI's Family Advocacy Day, when patients (and their families) who are treated at our member hospitals come to DC to talk to their legislators about the importance of coverage for and access to specialized care for kids. Also check out our "all-star" blog and get inspired by the kids' stories.
  • I can't believe I'm doing this, but Martha Stewart actually has some really good social media advice:  "If it's there, try it." 
  • I had to give up on Pride and Prejudice and Zombies - just not that big an Austin fan, and there wasn't enough zombie content to hold my interest. So I'm re-reading the lovely Mists of Avalon.
  • And I have to give a final plug to my newest blog - Food Lab: Testing Taste, Texture, and Technique.  What's it all about?  This post explains the concept - I hope you'll check out the continuing food lab exploits.

14 June 2010

Always the Last to Know: Meet or Die

Meet or Die is a fun or, depending on your perspective, tremendously depressing website to help you figure out exactly how much all that time wasted in meetings is really costing your organization.

I think I'm going to have to fall out on the "tremendously depressing" side.

I did a calculation for a meeting that happens here twice a month and came up with the figure of just under $1400.  Per meeting.  $2800 a month.  Over $33,000 a year.  Yikes.

How'd you fare?

11 June 2010

Friday Top 5

As many association professionals already know, ASAE's in the process of revamping their website. If I recall correctly, the last major redesign (current look, feel, and navigation) launched something in the neighborhood of 4 years ago, so it's due (plus it's still built around the old logo/name).  But before the current site rides into the sunset (not happening until later this year), I thought I'd give it a shout-out.  My top 5 favorite things about the current ASAE website:
  1. Acronym.  It's a consistently solidly written blog about current issues in association management, and they do a great job of inviting in guest bloggers from across the spectrum of the association profession.
  2. Career HQ.  Still the #1 source for jobs in association management; in the past year or so, ASAE's been putting a lot of effort into turning it from a job board into a true career center.
  3. The Member 2 Member community. ASAE has struggled to find the right online collaboration platform (anyone other than me remember the mess that was iCohere or the *first* SharePoint implementation?).  M2M's SharePoint underpinnings still show, but it's a dramatic improvement over previous attempts. 
  4. Associapedia.  The wiki for all things association-related.  Haven't visited lately?  Check out the list of topics covered - it's pretty impressive.  And then go look up something you know something about and add to the entry!
  5. The event calendar.  How else would I know what's going on?
Bonus link?  Are you a membership &/or marketing association professional?  Join us in the Membership, Marketing & Management network on Member 2 Member to talk shop with a bunch of association smarties.

10 June 2010

09 June 2010

What I'm Reading

  • Pre-flight checklist for your blog posts? Check!
  • Jeff Hurt has some cool kindergarten social media tips (and a snazzy redesign).
  • Screwed up?  Say you're sorry - it can really save your ass. 
  • On moderating comments.  Bonus Chuck Norris fact of the day:  I just passed a graveyard.  It's full of people who tried to moderate Chuck Norris's blog comments.  Don't say you weren't warned.
  • We've all been worried about "what if someone says something bad online and we (organizations) get sued!?!"  Turns out, we should've been more concerned about the reverse - companies suing their critics.  This shouldn't surprise anyone.
  • Great review of how e-readers are and will be changing the publishing industry.  More on e-readers:  Seth Godin has some seriously urgent advice for Amazon.com regarding the Kindle.
  • "Remember the day when Google become self-aware?" A privacy expert takes a look at Google Chrome OS. (requires login)
  • 4 reasons you should avoid social media - refuted! (OK, if you've been reading this blog for any amount of time, you know these horses are so dead we're now staring at their bleached bones, but at least this post uses some humor.)
  • Great reminder from Dave Lutz: make it easy for people to do business with you, or they won't. Repeat after me:  fewest possible hoops.  FEWEST.  Yes, fewer than you currently have.
  • Just finished The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane last night and I'm now looking forward to starting Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (thanks to Deb, aka, my local lending library).  Gotta love a book about zombies!

08 June 2010

YAP @ #MMCon10

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to join all your peeps at RFD on Monday, June 14 after ASAE's SOLD OUT Membership & Marketing Conference for one of the legendary YAP parties. You do NOT want to miss this.

07 June 2010

Always the Last to Know: 10 Tactics

"Turning information into activism," 10 Tactics provides creative inspiration for rights activists with small budgets to attract attention and motivate people to act.  The site includes short films for each of the 10 tactics, plus a card for each that includes actual campaigns and case studies of that tactic in use.

The tactics include:
  1. Mobilize people
  2. Witness and record
  3. Visualize your message
  4. Amplify personal stories
  5. Just add humor
  6. Manage your contacts
  7. How to use complex data
  8. Use collective intelligence
  9. Let people ask you questions
  10. Investigate and expose
Hmmm...small budget, attract attention, motivate people to act...any of this sound familiar, association peeps?  Go check out the site and get inspired.

04 June 2010

Friday Top 5

Based on a conversation I had with my boss earlier this week and in honor of the DC Jazz Fest (happening right now and until June 13), my top 5 favorite jazz albums of all time:
  1. Miles Davis Kind of Blue - this is my desert island album.  Literally every note is perfect.
  2. Ellington at Newport - this is a partial recording of a live performance by the Duke Ellington big band at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1956.  Big bands were being killed by the move to bebop, and this performance basically saved the Ellington band and with it, Ellington's career and legacy.  Get the full story at Wikipedia - it's a good one.
  3. Sinatra at the Sands - another live recording of a 50 year old Frank Sinatra fronting the Count Basie orchestra in Vegas in 1966.  His voice is much rougher than the pure tenor of his youth, but his song interpretation just blows you away.
  4. Ella and Louis Again - the first lady of American song and the man who started it all.
  5. John Coltrane, the Complete 1961 Village Vanguard Recordings - technically not one album, but it features multiple takes of Coltrane classics.  Coltrane and Davis may be the two most central figures in jazz.
So, as WWOZ urges us, "go out and hear some live, local music!"

03 June 2010

#Hackaction, Redux

#Hackaction is dead - Long live #hackaction!

Wait - what?

It goes like this:  the planned April 22 event didn't happen.  But the idea's not dead - it's been re-cast as an opportunity to come together as association professionals and design innovative ways to communicate the value of membership.

When?  June 28

Where?  True Reformer Building on U Street in DC

How much?  FREE, yo!

Who?  You, silly!  Me, too.  Because even if you know everything there is to know about communicating the value of membership to your members, the least you can do is come impart your wisdom to the rest of us schmucks who are muddling around trying to do this.

02 June 2010

What I'm Reading

  • After 25+ years, it's still The Big Dog, but will mobile kill Microsoft?
  • Could Shelly Alcorn be any more awesome?
  • From the always-germane Jeff Hurt:  25 tips for using social media at your next event
  • The AP Style Guidebook finally catches up to the social web.  I still think the best innovation has to be changing "Web site" to "website."  It's about time!
  • Curious about the emerging trends in social media liability and insurance?  Leslie White provides a great overview for the SocialFish.
  • Smartie Amber Naslund shares 13 truths about social media measurement.  Her most important truth?  The data is the beginning, not the end, and unless it leads to action, what's the point?
  • Awesomeness on generations and leadership from The Hourglass Blog.  And I quote:  "What really makes humans unique is our ability to call the extremely hard the impossible, and then self-indulgently move ourselves to tears while we celebrate our perceived ability to transcend the impossible." (HEE!  Also, and this is purely a personal perspective, but for chrissakes, STOP CRYING.)
  • Why "going viral" is NOT a strategy - it's a side benefit of creating really great stuff. 
  • Sir Tim Berners-Lee encourages us to quit focusing on the sizzle and sell the damn steak already.
  • While in NYC over Memorial Day, I read Shanghai Sisters, by Lisa See, a book that follows two "beautiful girls" (artists' models) from pre-WWII China through immigration to the US and into the Cultural Revolution era.  It's a good (but not great) book that comes from a different perspective than we're often presented with on the process of "becoming American."
  • I'm now reading The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe.  It's a combo of mystery, history, and (I suspect) a little horror of the James Hynes variety.  It reads very much like a first novel written by a grad student (which it is), but it's clever and features an unusual plot.

01 June 2010

Let's Dance!

What could you do at your next conference to encourage fun and a sense of belonging? Could you do what the National Restaurant Association did at their recent trade show?